Unprecendented security cordons the Chinese capital ahead of its 60th National Day celebrations.
Tanks and troops on Saturday lined the empty streets of China’s capital that has been placed under a heavy lockdown amid security concerns ahead of the country’s National Day celebrations.
With the People’s Republic of China’s marking its 60th anniversary on October 1, Beijing has in recent days been swarmed by thousands of troops, police and security volunteers as the government, wary of any unrest, conducted a massive security operation in preparation for the National Day.
On Friday and Saturday, large parts of the city were effectively shut down and closed to the public as soldiers and tanks conducted a rehearsal for the National Day parade, which will see a military display of thousands of troops along Beijing’s Avenue of Eternal Peace, the grand east-west road that runs through the heart of the city past Tiananmen Square.
The government has announced a string of measures in recent weeks to tighten security before October 1, some peculiar and others unpopular with this city’s residents. An official this week declared the skies a “no fly zone”, banning “pigeons, kites and balloons,” in a city where pigeon-flying is a popular pastime.
For the unfortunate residents of neighbourhoods that were closed down this weekend, this meant even home was off limits. “I was stranded outside my house for hours as there were military tanks in my doorstep!” exclaimed one resident, who only gave his last name as Zhou. “The restrictions are too much, but it’s the 60th anniversary so I can understand why they have to do this.”
A spate of stabbing incidents in recent days near Tiananmen Square, the city’s most heavily guarded landmark, has further raised the concerns of officials.
On Saturday, a French woman was stabbed in a restaurant south of the square and is currently being treated. This followed a stabbing spree on Thursday in a shopping area south of the square, when a man wielding a knife killed two security guards and injured 12 others.
Officials did not say if the incidents were related, but have tightened already heavy security measures.
Around one million “security volunteers” will trawl the city’s neighbourhoods in coming days in what will be the largest security operation the city has seen. While many residents feel the measures are excessive, authorities have justified the clampdown saying the government faced an “overwhelming task” to maintain stability.
Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee this week called for a “Peoples War” to maintain security. He called for officials and volunteers to “fully prepare themselves for the most complicated situation.”
Officials have not mentioned any specific threats, but are clearly not taking any chances. Restrictions have already been placed on the movement of vehicles from other provinces. The city’s migrant population has also been asked to register themselves with officials, and officials said the movement of migrant workers will be regulated.
With many residents voicing their annoyance at the government’s measures, officials said on Saturday this weekends disruptions would be the last before October 1. “We had planned another rehearsal on September 26, but it has been called off to avoid further affecting the public,” an official said.
Police visits to the homes of residents who live along the avenue on which the parade will take place have also become regular. Residents have been told to “close their windows and stay away from balconies” that overlook the street on October 1. “If we cant see the parade, who are they putting it up for?” one aggrieved resident remarked.